Poems

Carlos Hernández Peña



facing the Pacific

 

this hour       this beach             both

 

what is (inside), (what is not) outside

 

lo que es (adentro), (lo que no es) afuera

 

surf, seagulls, children’s laughter

 

vertical, circular, horizontal

 

spacetime – where?

 

let the sound choose  –

 

but gravity

 

does not dismantle itself

 

waves pound the shore

 

sand, pebbles, shells and all

 

está afuera, y no está dentro

 

is outside, and not inside

 

what new life breathes salted hot air

 

    pleasure                     despair

 

 

 

had I flossed six times a day for the past twelve years would evil have spared my sleep?

 

 

if my name were Rhododendron

and my lover’s name Orchid, or Iris –

could the curse have passed the garden

without noticing my presence

 

which style of composition

if I were a musical chord

could I trust for best protection

a jazz arrangement, or a symphony – where,

within the melody or the rhythm section

 

if I were kitchen spices

could I blend into a variety of pastries

and hot thick sauces –

so nobody would realize

I had scattered myself in disguise

to escape on different dishes

 

to protect me from a voodoo spell

could I befriend a gorilla

deep in a jungle on my own

or, if left in silence kneeling on sand

would a wise camel appear

to save me from a bloody hex 

 

if I were only a phrase

would such madness leave me untouched

in a medical treatise

or in an epic novel of lengthy volumes;

in how-to manuals, or history and religion

 

could I hide from it living in Mogadishu,

in Port-au-Prince, or in Juárez – a market

which day of the week, Monday or Friday,

in what month, May or October

 

and numbers – fractals, the Fibonacci sequence,

the π number, or algorithmic equations –

could they offer shelter to my mind, better

than a flute, filberts, or the written word

 

is it too late to turn into pigments, mixed

with linseed or safflower oils on a canvas –

will I find abstractions – like Richter’s and Ksiazek’s 

safe sanctuary for my soul?

 

 

 

not a purple tango, or a yellow samba, perhaps an uncatalogued charanga 

 

 

after textures found inside a painting at a gallery, a horologist, a mannequin

and a dwarf pulcinella come together to drink absolute black

 

but it’s not a three-way conversation since the one with the watch

doesn’t even say a word, only stares at his frozen hour

 

the composed mannequin insists on some missing swan – not missing

simply nesting undisclosed, to avoid children and walkers with cameras

 

the clown can’t stop his manic episodes of furious jumps and shouts – 

he does not believe it so: the long neck bird sits always by the pond

 

as this night grows older, darkness finds its groove, not a single

white feather in sight, not a sound from the one watching time

 

it’s all about the silk and gravel of loss, in the throat –

every drop of blackness, as they fuse together

 

in a fist, or in a handful of grapes, in the dense mating of tarantulas

or side by side – the dead and unborn found inside an abstract glass

 

so, I throw a tenebrous tantrum, knowing well none of them would care –

what space inside a Jackson Pollock painting, or inside a sperm whale

 

what else to do – my drummer plays her jungle vodka beats, I can’t resist

a desire to crane-dance a Schumann air, at a distance

 

 

 

when your eyes roll back and look inside

 

 

while the rain stops, and the stars come out

over a dark rock a fisherman ties together

long segments of ancient rugs –

a tall bearded man, he speaks to you, slowly

 

as the sun starts to rise over the shore

but you’ve never heard this language before

and you don’t understand his voice

 

you wait for a sign, another man, or woman

while you think over such talk –

the tall figure at the beach stands before you

not understanding your questions, either –

 

barefoot on the sand, a carpet weaver appears

from the other end of dawn with a basket

full of fish, and a loaf of bread under her arm

 

so, now you see yourself in Navajo country

or outside a Turkish village, but you can’t

distinguish the features of the couple

and still don’t understand one word they say

 

were you expecting food and warmth

or were you merely lost, needing directions?

you still don’t know –

 

in truth, your immediate wish amounts

to keep breathing your life here, now –

it wouldn’t even occur to you

to ask them about your memory – how? 

 

a blackfoot albatross circle the clear sky above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlos Hernández Peña
Carlos Hernández Peña

Carlos Hernández Peña is the author of Moonmilk and Other Poems (Ragged Sky Press, 2006).  He has also served as a co-editor of the US1 Worksheets magazine, and organized Voices at the Princeton Public Library, a biannual program of poetry from around the world presented in a bilingual format, featured over 30 different languages.

During the daytime, Carlos works for The Segal Company, employee benefit consultants and actuaries in Princeton, New Jersey.